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  • Right-wing media use Parkland school shooting to rail against abortion

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Update: This piece has been updated to include additional examples.

    On February 14, after a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, left 17 dead, right-wing and anti-abortion media made outlandish comparisons between gun regulation and abortion restrictions, as well as comparing the National Rifle Association (NRA) to Planned Parenthood.

    • Peggy Noonan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, compared the debate around gun violence prevention policies following the Parkland shooting to calls from the anti-abortion movement to restrict access to abortions after 20 weeks. Noonan claimed, “On gun law, Republicans oppose banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, the one the Parkland shooter used, because of the numbers, power and contributions of gun owners and the NRA. Democrats oppose banning late-term abortion because of the numbers, power and contributions of the rising left, feminists and Planned Parenthood.” Noonan argued that lawmakers should “trade banning assault weapons for banning late-term abortion. Make illegal a killing machine and a killing procedure. In both cases the lives of children would be saved.”
    • After Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that gun regulation is needed because Americans cannot stand by while “our babies are being slaughtered,” The Western Journal -- which is known to peddle fake news -- highlighted conservatives on Twitter who “were quick to point out the glaring hypocrisy in her statements, suggesting that one cannot decry the deaths of babies while being such a strong advocate for the practice of abortion,” including actor James Woods’ tweet:

    • The Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson similarly attacked Harris with an article titled “Pro-Abortion Senator Horrified About ‘Slaughter of Babies.’”

    • RedState’s Josh Kimbrell wrote, “It is a contradiction in political philosophy to promote Planned Parenthood while accusing gun rights advocates of being against life.” Kimbrell claimed that while Planned Parenthood “is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every single year,” the NRA “does not advocate gun violence or promote a culture of death.” Instead, Kimbrell argued, the NRA “provides excellent gun safety training resources to all ages.”
    • During a February 22 appearance on Fox News @ Night, Townhall's Guy Benson talked about the supposed media bias of outlets reporting on the NRA’s political donations but not covering donations from Planned Parenthood’s political arm. He was referring to a Senate vote against a ban on abortions at 20 weeks:

    GUY BENSON: CNN, one of our rival networks, tweeted out a list of the Republicans who had voted no, with a list of their ratings from the NRA, and people were highlighting how much money they had taken from the NRA. And that type of coverage simply did not exist with the Democrats and Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby when they voted for a life-and-death issue against the strong wishes of the American people. And, to me, that dichotomy is striking and unavoidable.

    • On the February 21 edition of One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler also compared donations from the NRA and Planned Parenthood. Wheeler said that not only was it a “hideous lie” that the “NRA buys off politicians in an effort to push a pro-gun agenda that costs the lives of millions of children,” but also that it was “ironic because liberals have no problem with another organization that also donates to politicians and actually does kill millions of children -- Planned Parenthood.”
    • Writing for Townhall, conservative blogger Erick Erickson also compared Planned Parenthood to the NRA, saying that “elite opinion makers in America champion Planned Parenthood, which actually does kill thousands of children each year, while savaging the National Rifle Association, which has never killed a child and whose members have actually saved others' lives.”
    • Christian Schneider, an opinion columnist at USA Today, wrote that the “double standard” of media coverage could be summed up as: “When Democrats work on behalf of a special interest that aborts millions of children, they are doing so from a place of conscience and ideological purity. When Republicans argue in favor of Second Amendment rights, it is because they have been bought off by a disfavored lobbying group looking to profit from carnage.” Schneider explained that this “double standard” is a “cynical ploy that only devalues Congress in the voters’ eyes. And it is especially destructive when applied only to one party.”
    • Fox News’ Laura Ingraham used the high schools students who survived the Parkland shooting and have been calling for gun safety policies to make a comparison to media coverage of the anti-abortion March for Life. On the February 20 edition of her Fox News show, The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham said that “the media has a little double standard problem here” because of what she deemed under-coverage of the March for Life. She claimed that “18- to 34-year-olds were the second most likely age group to oppose” abortions after 20 weeks -- a statistic the media should think more critically about before reporting -- and said the media should “give those kids some mention as well and maybe a little empathy, or at least a little fair coverage. That would be nice. The kids count? Well, that means all of their views.”
    • Tucker Carlson made a similar comparison to the March for Life on the February 21 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. Carlson said that “thousands of other children come to Washington for the March [for] Life,” and that “like the kids from Parkland, they’re against killing.” Carlson also questioned the media response to the March for Life in comparison to coverage of the Parkland shooting, asking, “Do the media hold these kids up as the last word on the subject? Do they attack anyone who questions them? Please. A lot of news outlets don't even bother to cover that march at all.”

    Other outlets promoted similar talking points comparing abortion restrictions and gun regulation

    • On the February 20 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Time magazine’s Michael Duffy and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell praised Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column in which she called for a “trade” between banning assault weapons and restricting abortion after 20 weeks:

    MICHAEL DUFFY: Science is chasing politics in both those cases. And Peggy Noonan wrote a really interesting column on Saturday, I think, where she said --

    ANDREA MITCHELL: It’s a wonderful column.

    DUFFY: -- where she said -- she had a proposal at the end that was shocking at first when you read it that basically said the right should give on late-term abortion -- I'm sorry, the left --

    MITCHELL: The left, exactly.

    DUFFY: -- should give on late-term abortion and the right should give on some of these gun restrictions, particularly with respect to assault weapons. And that that’s a vote, she said, for life in general. And she cited young people as a changed political factor.

    MITCHELL: I'm glad you mentioned that, Mike. Because she is ahead of the curve in all of these cultural issues, I think, Peggy has a unique sensibility. And --

    DUFFY: It was an interesting trade up.

    • In a column for the Chicago Tribune, John Kass made an argument similar to Noonan’s. He argued that Republicans can call for “gun-violence restraining orders” and Democrats can agree to support a ban on abortion after 20-weeks as both "common sense" compromises.

    The comparison also spread to social media and message boards

    • On Reddit, the “r/The_Donald” forum featured several threads touting right-wing media’s comparisons between Planned Parenthood and NRA or abortion with guns. The titles of these threads included “If You Want To Take My Guns, I Want To Take Your Abortions That Kill 300,000 Children A Year” and “2017 killing statistics. Planned Parenthood: 328,348. NRA members: 0." Some of these threads drew significant engagement from users:

    UPDATE: Right-wing media continued using the Parkland shooting to attack Planned Parenthood and abortion rights

    • Radio host Michael Graham wrote for The Federalist that politicians who claim to be personally opposed to abortion, but vote for pro-choice policies are “too timid to vote” for abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood is the NRA of the Democratic Party. Only worse.” Planned Parenthood is worse, Graham said, because although some Republicans support gun regulation, no Democrat supports abortion restrictions “because Planned Parenthood and its allies wouldn’t let it happen.” Graham further argued that “Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby are proof that you don’t need a gun to be a bully.”
    • National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis compared outrage over politicians taking donations from the NRA to what she perceived as a media silence about politicians taking donations from Planned Parenthood, noting that “mainstream outlets” never “point to the campaign contributions that Democratic politicians accept from Planned Parenthood and its close cousin NARAL.” DeSanctis stated, “If the Left and its friends in the media truly cared about the influence of ‘dark money,’ they would bother to report this information about Planned Parenthood.”
    • On the March 1 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson asked Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), “What would drive a 19-year-old to want to murder strangers?” In response, Duffy partly blamed abortion, saying, “We dehumanize life in those video games, in those movies, and with abortion.”
    • Duffy returned to Fox News during the March 2 edition of The Ingraham Angle, where Duffy and host Laura Ingraham repeatedly claimed that calling out Planned Parenthood instead of the NRA made more sense to them. Ingraham stated, “If we're going to judge people based on an organization’s blood spilled, well, I hope Planned Parenthood is going to lose all of its partnerships or affiliations, given the fact that we have about 57 million babies who never got to see the light of day.” Duffy agreed, saying, “If you want to save kids' lives, I would look to the Democrat (sic) Party and Planned Parenthood and the left-wing media. And Planned Parenthood killed 300 of the most defenseless, voiceless, little babies last year alone.” After Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) wondered how the conversation moved to abortion and attempted to bring it back to gun regulation, Ingraham stated, “I thought it was pretty clear, but I'll explain it again if you’re confused. We're talking about the blood of children, innocent children who were gunned down in that school, and we're talking about the blood of the most innocent who are defenseless in the womb.”
    • On March 2, NRA TV contributor Dan Bongino claimed on Tucker Carlson Tonight that it is “so beyond stupid” to debate with liberals on gun regulations because, he said, liberals don’t support putting “any abortion laws on the books” as “they’ll all be ignored” anyway, but believe “gun laws, those will really work.” Host Tucker Carlson agreed with Bongino’s argument, saying that for liberals, “abortion, which is not mentioned in the Constitution is the beating heart of our constitutional rights.”
    • Fox contributor David Bossie argued on the March 2 edition of Fox News’ The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino that “it's interesting that people want to protect Planned Parenthood by killing babies on one hand and, on the other hand, they want to take guns away.”
    • During the March 4 edition of Fox and Friends Weekend, conservative radio host Kathy Barnette said, “Tragically Nikolas Cruz killed 17 little souls on that day, but Planned Parenthood kills over 800 babies on a daily basis, and where is the moral outrage on that?” Host Rachel Campos-Duffy replied, “Absolutely.”
  • Pro-Trump media launch attacks on student survivors of Florida school shooting

    The attacks, which have received a boost from Donald Trump Jr., are now being condemned by one of the students

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN

    After any mass shooting, disinformation spreads online like wildfire. It happens immediately, created and disseminated on purpose, often in real time as the event is unfolding. This week, even as the Parkland high school shooter was still at large, posters on 4chan and 8chan immediately went to work spreading false information about the shooter being a linked to a white supremacist militia, the most widely reported of the multiple hoaxes about the massacre found online. And in the aftermath of the tragedy, lies and hoaxes about the survivors who have been speaking out against school massacres have gained traction in certain corners.

    Dr. Kate Starbird, a professor at University of Washington, has done a lot of research on what she refers to as alternative narratives. She writes: “Over time, we noted that a similar kind of rumor kept showing up, over and over again, after each of the man-made crisis events — a conspiracy theory or ‘alternative narrative’ of the event that claimed it either didn’t happen or that it was perpetrated by someone other than the current suspects.” Starbird also highlights the role that botnets play in disseminating alternative narratives.

    What Starbird describes has played out time and again. What’s different about the Parkland shooting is how quickly and powerfully survivors began speaking out. Some students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School immediately took to social media calling on President Donald Trump and Congress to do something about guns and calling out commentators like Fox’s Tomi Lahren for saying now wasn’t the time to talk about guns. David Hogg, a student journalist who interviewed students on lockdown during the shooting, made several TV appearances demanding leaders take action. Another student, Emma Gonzalez, called out the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the legislators who do its bidding. Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, went on CNN calling on Congress to do more to “to end gun violence, to keep our kids safe." Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed, screamed at President Trump on CNN to “do something.” Student survivors are organizing a march on Washington D.C..

    And now, Parkland survivors are targets for fake news campaigns, conspiracy theories, harassment and doxxing. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has already suggested that the entire shooting is a false flag, which implies that all of the survivors are actors in an elaborate hoax. As survivors speak up, there are already attempts to attack and discredit them individually.

    Survivor David Hogg has been the target of conspiracy theories since he began speaking out. The day after the shooting, one far-right account noted in a since-deleted tweet that Hogg was suspicious for speaking so eloquently.

    Both the #Qanon conspiracy theory crowd and Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich are claiming that Hogg is a plant because he is the child of an FBI agent.

    Right-wing cable news channel One America News Network shared Wintrich’s post, and Gateway Pundit’s video of Hogg is currently one of the top posts on The_Donald subreddit.

    Hyperpartisan site True Pundit also ran with it.

    Donald Trump Jr. liked tweets sharing the conspiracy theory.

    One conspiracy theory site alleged that Hogg was a plant with a “radical agenda” because he used an earpiece from a remote location while talking with an anchor in a studio. It’s unclear how else he was supposed to hear what was being asked.

    One popular theme that is making rounds online is that the survivors are “crisis actors.” Conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer said as much on Twitter.

    Gateway Pundit accused student survivors of “partying like rock stars” based solely on them smiling in pictures, saying, “The photos come off as if they were promo stills for Glee: The High School Massacre.”

    A meme circling in The Storm conspiracy theory subreddit also attacked the students for posing for a picture.

    Another circling in #Qanon alleged that the same woman was photographed following other mass shootings and terrorist attacks.

    Numerous YouTube videos, some with hundreds of thousands of views, have been published about crisis actors in the few days since the shooting. A typical #Qanon user said that the imperative was to “expose” these students “and have them sent to jail.”

    Users on 4chan accused Alhadeff of being a paid actor, not a grieving mother who had just lost her child. 4chan users also claimed that the students who countered Tomi Lahren on Twitter were plants. A student who appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Emily Kolber, was also accused of being a paid actor.

    Update (6:15 pm EST): Since this was posted, the Parkland students have been subjected to a full day of continued conspiracies and abuse from pro-Trump media. Gateway Pundit’s White House correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, accused the students of being "little pricks" who are “milking the deaths of their peers.”

    True Pundit claimed that an old photo of student David Hogg on a tour of CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta is proof that a conspiracy is afoot.

    Reddit forum “r/The_Donald” has several threads devoted to attacking and attempting to delegitimize the students and Big League Politics is simultaneously smearing the students while also promoting the conspiracy of a second shooter.

    Meanwhile, a staffer to Florida State Rep. Shawn Harrison used his government email address to email a reporter claiming that the students speaking out were “actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.”

    And after Florida lawmakers voted to reject a bill that would ban assault rifles, Dinesh D’Souza tweeted Adults 1, kids 0.

    It’s on all of us to have the survivors’ backs as they continue to speak out. The kind of abuse they’ll be subjected to is predictable. We can track where it originates and how it spreads. Media outlets covering the shooting need to be aware of these trolling operations and include them in their reporting. Tech companies must protect survivors from abuse and stop the spread of false information. We should all think carefully and confirm facts before we share any stories and information about survivors online.

    Update (12:15 pm EST): David Hogg condemned the attacks in a statement to Buzzfeed:

    "I just think it's a testament to the sick immaturity and broken state of our government when these people feel the need to pedal conspiracy theories about people that were in a school shooting where 17 people died and it just makes me sick … It's immature, rude, and inhuman for these people to destroy the people trying to prevent the death of the future of America because they won't."

    Research by Nina Mast, Natalie Martinez, Cristina López G., and Alex Kaplan

  • The most extreme right-wing reactions to Cecile Richards' departure from Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On January 24, BuzzFeed reported that Cecile Richards plans to step down as president of Planned Parenthood. Richards confirmed the news on January 26, saying she is departing the organization some time this year. Immediately, anti-abortion and right-wing media and groups took the opportunity to smear Richards and Planned Parenthood in a number of outlandish ways.

    • The Federalist inaccurately claimed that Richards was leaving “amid an ongoing federal investigation.” The story pointed as evidence to the Department of Justice’s procedural request to the Senate judiciary committee in December 2017 for documents related to the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) discredited videos, which purport to show Planned Parenthood engaged in illicit practices.
    • Anti-abortion outlet LifeSiteNews published a piece that quoted CMP’s founder David Daleiden who alleged that Richards was leaving because “the secret is out that Planned Parenthood is a taxpayer-sponsored crime syndicate of industrial-scale child killing."
    • On One America News’ Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler said that although some might refer to her as "a conspiracy theorist,” her previous segment “about the legacy of Cecile Richards” was “666 words exactly.” She made the same point on Twitter.
    • Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue’s Senior Vice President Cheryl Sullenger -- who served two years in prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic -- posted on social media a series of photoshopped images of Richards wearing an orange jumpsuit in a prison cell and used a variety of hashtags, such as #ReleaseTheMemo and #Qanon. Sullenger’s use of the hashtags was likely an attempt to connect Richards’ departure to the right-wing campaign against special counsel Robert Mueller and the conspiracy theory thread on 8chan message board, respectively.

    • The Stream, an outlet founded by televangelist James Robison, posted a story titled “Can Cecile Richards Live With All the Ghosts?”

    • The Daily Wire called Richards “Planned Parenthood’s chief maniacal ghoul” and stated that “we can only hope Cecile Richards returns swiftly to the obscurity of whichever cavern of Hell spawned her.” The image accompanying the article -- titled “3.5 Million People Are Dead Today Because Of Cecile Richards” -- depicted Richards with devil horns and tail, photoshopped on an ultrasound image of a fetus with a halo.

    • Fake news purveyor Conservative Tribune responded to news of Richards’ departure, commenting, “It takes a special kind of evil to go to sleep at night knowing babies are being killed under your watch.”
    • Catholic newspaper National Catholic Register published a blog post that asked, “Does Richards sleep well at night, or are sleeping pills required to stop the nightmares of babies’ souls that come to visit?”
    • After Hillary Clinton tweeted at Richards thanking her for her work, far-right blog The Gateway Pundit published a piece titled, “Hillary Clinton Thanks Planned Parenthood Pres Cecile Richards For Overseeing the Murder of Millions of Babies - Twitter Responds.”

  • Video: Right-wing media call Mueller's investigation a coup against Trump

    Since Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel, right-wing media have worked overtime to delegitimize the investigation

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR

    Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel on May 17. Since then, right-wing media have repeatedly called the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election (and a few related issues) a coup against Donald Trump. Watch:

    Related:

    Jesse Watters Says We May ‘Have a Coup on Our Hands in America’

    Previously:

    Why the anti-Mueller sentiment on Fox keeps getting worse

    Sean Hannity has really gone off the rails lately, but it's earned him a new fan: Alex Jones

    Fox contributor Mike Huckabee claims FBI officials intended "to stage what essentially amounts to a coup d'etat" against Trump

    Rush Limbaugh revives conspiracy theory that Mueller investigation is "a silent coup" to get rid of Trump

    Lou Dobbs unhinged over Flynn: Russia probe is a "parade of nonsense," "subversion" by the left

    Rush Limbaugh: Former intelligence chiefs are conducting a "silent coup" against Trump

    Alex Jones: There is a plot to install Robert Mueller as “the first king of America”

    Pro-Trump One America News Network: Report reveals Obama aides "plotted a coup against President Trump

    Alex Jones: Trump needs to get into a bunker right now and declare himself the victim of a coup attempt

    Rush Limbaugh conspiracy theory: "Leftists" are soliciting retired generals to possibly "lead a rebellion"

    Rush Limbaugh: "We're in the midst of a silent coup" by the GOP establishment to try "to take this president out"

    Lou Dobbs: The media is aiding a "coup d'etat against Trump"

    Jesse Watters: "What's happening right now is a coup against the will of the American people"

    Sean Hannity: "A soft coup is underway" against Trump with "sinister forces quickly aligning"

  • In final stretch of campaign, Roy Moore runs to friendly outlets to avoid questions of child molestation

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the last week leading up to today's special Senate election in Alabama, Republican candidate Roy Moore has avoided most media, granting interviews instead to friendly outlets including Breitbart and One America News Network. On the night before the election, Moore did one of these interviews with Breitbart.com chief Stephen Bannon at a rally where Bannon was campaigning for him. 

    Since December 4, Moore has given at least five interviews, none of which were to major mainstream media outlets despite the national attention the race garnered after Moore was accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with teenagers, including a 14-year-old girl. Moore granted one interview to Breitbart's Aaron Klein, one interview to Bannon at a Moore rally where Bannon was campaigning for him (Breitbart has been running defense to get him elected), one interview to pro-Moore outlet One America News Network, one interview to a local Alabama political talk show, and one interview to a “pro-Trump” 12-year-old girl in an interview arranged by an organization “formed by former Breitbart news staffers.”

    Moore has largely avoided the media since early November, when reports surfaced that Moore engaged in numerous inappropriate encounters with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Since those reports, pro-Trump media have generously supported Moore in an attempt to drag him across the finish line, helping him in his efforts to attack his accusers. Breitbart.com has led the pack, with Bannon campaigning extensively for Moore and the site going all in soon after the first reports of inappropriate contact with teenagers surfaced. Breitbart’s senior editor Joel Pollak has argued that Moore’s reported sexual relationships with teenagers were “perfectly legitimate.” And Breitbart has even rented out its email list to the Moore campaign, which sent fundraising emails to Breitbart’s subscribers on at least four occasions.

  • 6 of OANN’s most bizarre and desperate attempts to elect Roy Moore in Alabama

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    One America News Network (OANN) has gone scorched earth in its efforts to elect Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. The network, which President Donald Trump apparently watches and has praised, has used a combination of desperate and bizarre segments to raise support for Moore, despite several women saying Moore made sexual advances toward them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Given the network’s outlandish history that includes racism and a penchant for pushing conspiracy theories, its support for Moore may not be surprising, but the tactics it uses are nonetheless ridiculous.

    1. Creating a confusing web of ties to “the underground world of illicit drugs” to discredit Moore’s accusers and the media

    OANN made a desperate attempt to link Faye Gary, a former Alabama cop who said she had to keep Moore from harassing cheerleaders at sporting events in the 1980s, to “the underground world of the illicit drug business,” because her sons were arrested for distributing drugs. Sharp also claimed that Moore prosecuted Gary’s brothers for drug crimes, which is why Gary “has a personal ax to grind with Roy Moore.” Sharp also insinuated that Moore made a “powerful enemy” when he convicted Richard Hagerdon for drug dealing, because his brother, David Hagerdon, worked for The Washington Post. Though Sharp admitted that “it’s not clear what the connection could be between Hagerdon and the publication of sexual allegations,” he nevertheless speculated that the “coincidence” still “throws the entire case into question.” Moore even promoted the segment on Twitter.

    From the November 29 edition of One America News:

    2. Calling on Sean Hannity to apologize “for not standing by the judge”

    OANN lashed out at Fox’s Sean Hannity after the host gave Moore an ultimatum to “get out of this race” if he couldn’t refute the allegations. The network said it believes “Sean Hannity owes Moore an apology for not standing by the judge,” despite the fact that Hannity eventually backed off from his original demand.

    From the November 26 edition of One America News:

     

    3. Playing Moore’s campaign ad in full and calling his opponent a “fascist”

    On The Daily Ledger, OANN played one of Moore’s campaign ads -- that called the allegations against the former judge “false” -- at the start of a segment about Moore and the Alabama special election. Host Graham Ledger then attacked Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, by calling him a “real fascist left radical,” despite the fact that Jones helped convict members of the Ku Klux Klan. Ledger also falsely claimed that Jones wants “abortion on demand and up until birth” and that “from a constitutional perspective, Jones cannot be allowed to win.” Additionally, Ledger suggested that the reports about Moore’s misconduct were a “conspiracy to deny Moore a seat in the United States Senate.”

    From the November 28 edition of One America News Network’s The Daily Ledger:

    4. Hyping the “violent past” of one of Moore’s accusers

    In yet another attempt to sow doubt about one of Moore’s accusers, OANN hyped a report from Breitbart which claimed that one of Moore’s accusers, Tina Johnson, has a “‘violent nature’” and a “history of criminal fraud” against her family. OANN reported that “as time goes by, many are uncovering the skeletons” in the accusers’ past, “raising questions about their potential motives.” OANN also asserted that Johnson’s claims could be “revenge from when Moore represented her mother in the custody battle” over Johnson’s child.

    From the November 27 edition of One America News:

    5. Citing handwriting and body language “experts” to discredit one of Moore’s accusers

    One of OANN’s earliest attempts to defend Moore was on November 14 when the network tried to cast doubt over Beverly Nelson, a woman who said Moore sexually assaulted her in 1977. OANN suggested that a note Moore wrote in Nelson’s yearbook might be “fake,” citing discredited figure Thomas Wictor. OANN also claimed that “body language experts are also speculating about the authenticity of Nelson's claims” after her appearance at a news conference.

    From the November 14 edition of One America News:

    6. Airing a mini-documentary about Moore

    OANN also aired a bizarre 13-minute mini-documentary about Moore. Before the clip began, the anchor suggested that “without ever having had a trial, Moore has been convicted by the jury of public opinion and whether or not he’s guilty doesn’t really seem to matter to the media or mainstream politicians.” The documentary began with a short section that presented some of Moore’s most stalwart supporters in an attempt to create an image of a person who "repeatedly fought the establishment over various issues, always to uphold his beliefs." The documentary also claimed that many of the allegations “were based on nothing more than hearsay and rumors.” At the end, the documentary stated, “if the only evidence required is unproven hearsay without any verifiable proof, then the support of the thousands of people coming out with stories of Roy Moore's sterling character must surely outweigh the evidence against him.”

    From the November 26 edition of One America News:

  • Gateway Pundit’s idiotic new defense of Roy Moore: His accuser’s body language was fake

    Moore’s campaign is also invoking one of the blog’s conspiracy theories that a signature was forged

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Saraho Wasko / Media Matters

    The Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that regularly traffics in false claims, continues to sink to new lows in an effort to defend embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The blog is now claiming that the body language of a woman who accused Moore of attempted rape was fake and thus she was lying about him.

    Moore has come under intense pressure following a November 9 Washington Post report that multiple women say he engaged in sexual conduct with them when they were teenagers, including Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time. On November 13, another women, Beverly Young Nelson, reported that Moore tried to rape her when she was 16. She also shared a signature from Moore in her yearbook from that year.

    The next day, The Gateway Pundit published a piece, headlined “‘This is Fake!’: Body Language Expert Says Judge Moore Accuser Was ‘Acting…Not a Real Victim.’” The article cited a “body language expert” named “Bombard” who analyzed Nelson’s “facial expressions and vocal discrepancies” in a clip on YouTube and concluded that she “conveyed signs of deception" and was “'acting.'” In the clip, “Bombard” says that Nelson had suspicious “eye movement” -- because she looked down while speaking -- and was engaged in “rehearsed verbal communication.” This analysis is self-evidently ridiculous because Nelson was apparently reading from a pre-prepared statement, which is a common practice at press conferences.

    Jerome Corsi of conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, pro-Trump radio host Bill Mitchell, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, and right-wing radio host Wayne Dupree all subsequently promoted the Gateway Pundit article or YouTube clip. Far-right friendly One America News Network also reported on supposed body language experts questioning the testimony, seemingly referencing the same clip. Multiple fake news websites picked up the claim as well, lauding the YouTube video for “expos[ing] the truth” about Nelson and showing that she was “lying,” as did Reddit’s “r/The_Donald,” a message board that has previously helped push conspiracy theories.

    This isn’t the first conspiracy theory Gateway Pundit has pushed in order to “go full truther on the Moore accusations,” as noted by The Hill’s Will Sommer. The blog also cited a random and now-discredited Twitter account claiming that a “family friend” told the account owner’s wife that “a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” One America News Network also pushed the claim, and Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, posted it on her Facebook page. The blog also tried to discredit Nelson by citing an unreliable Twitter account in order to claim that the signature Nelson had from Moore was forged (a claim Kayla Moore also posted on Facebook and One America News pushed as well). Moore’s attorney Trenton Garmon, speaking on MSNBC, also seemed to allude to the Gateway Pundit conspiracy theory, saying he had an “expert that is going to confirm” that the signature was a forgery.

    Gateway Pundit is a far-right-connected blog that has a history of regularly pushing misinformation. Nevertheless, it was granted White House press credentials in February, though it was denied a request for a congressional press pass, which it has appealed. In October, the blog cited 4chan’s “politically incorrect” (/pol/) message board to accuse the wrong man of carrying out the Las Vegas mass shooting -- and that is just one of the several times the site has blamed the wrong person for killings. In May, it hyped forged documents uploaded onto 4chan alleging that then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was evading taxes. And in January, the site falsely accused a Washington Post reporter of taking photos of now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s personal notes at his confirmation hearing, spurring online harassment. Despite Gateway Pundit’s checkered history, both President Donald Trump and his favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, have cited the blog.

    UPDATE: During a press conference on November 15, Moore’s attorney demanded that Nelson allow a handwriting expert to review the signature in her yearbook, seeming to support Gateway Pundit’s conspiracy theory that it was a forgery.

  • How pro-Trump media are attacking Moore's accusers: claiming a forged yearbook signature, suggesting bribery, and quibbling over a phone's location

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore has come under fire following accusations that he attempted to rape a teenager and engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with other teens, including a then-14-year-old minor. In order to defend Moore, right-wing and far-right media that have also been staunch supporters of President Donald Trump have resorted to pushing conspiracy theories -- some based on discredited Twitter accounts -- including suggesting that Moore’s signature on the yearbook of one of the accusers is forged and questioning the location of a phone another accuser said she used to speak to Moore. Moore’s wife has also pushed some of the conspiratorial claims on Facebook.

    Pushing conspiracy theories

    When Beverly Young Nelson, the woman who said Moore tried to rape her in 1977, showed the media a message signed “Roy Moore, D.A.” in her yearbook from that year, a conspiracy theory began making the rounds. The far-right and consistently unreliable blog Gateway Pundit claimed that the signature was forged in a piece headlined “IT’S A FAKE.” The website cited Twitter account Thomas Wictor as its source, claiming Wictor is “known for his insightful take on politics.” On the contrary, Wictor has a history of pushing false claims, including helping spread a made-up Puerto Rican trucker strike after Hurricane Maria and sharing a fake Facebook post of fallen soldier La David Johnson’s wife criticizing Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Despite Wictor’s poor track record, Gateway Pundit’s highly dubious claim has spread among other pro-Trump media and message boards that have previously helped push conspiracy theories. Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, also posted the article on her Facebook page.

    Before that, shortly after the The Washington Post published its initial report about Moore, Twitter account @umpire43 dubiously claimed that a “family friend” told his wife that “a WAPO reporter named Beth offered her 1000$ to accuse Roy Moore.” The Gateway Pundit and the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars both picked up the tweet, and from there, numerous fake news websites promoted it, as did the far-right-friendly One America News Network. Kayla Moore also posted a link on Facebook to one of the fake news websites pushing the claim. But the Twitter account that launched the rumor has previously made a similar allegation about two other news outlets, has lied about its own background, and has since deleted many of its tweets.

    Pushing irrelevant or inconsequential stories to try to discredit the accusers

    Many pro-Trump media outlets have also jumped on the tangential point that one of the accusers, Deborah Wesson Gibson, was an interpreter for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and worked with former Vice President Joe Biden at some events. Breitbart, The Gateway Pundit, Infowars, and many fake news websites all jumped on this allegation, and more traditional right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and The Daily Caller hyped it as well.

    Pro-Trump media have also supported a separate effort by Breitbart to discredit the accusers. One Breitbart report claimed that the mother of Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time of her encounter with Moore, said that her daughter did not have a phone in her bedroom, though the Post reported that Corfman had spoken with Moore on such a phone. Kayla Moore, The Gateway Pundit and multiple fake news websites promoted Breitbart’s report, which dubiously suggested that Corfman was lying. Another Breitbart report hyped a comment from Corfman’s mother that the Post “worked to convince her daughter to give an interview,” even though the Post had acknowledged that fact in its original report. Gateway Pundit called it “one heck of a revelation,” and fake news website TruthFeed called it a “bombshell.”

    Victim shaming

    Pro-Trump media commentators have also smeared the accusers in other ways. Some have suggested that struggles Corfman faced later in her life meant her accusation was not credible (in fact the Post reported that Corfman hesitated to share her story earlier precisely because she feared her struggles would be used against her). CNN’s Ed Martin suggested that Corfman should not be believed because she had “multiple bankruptcies.” Fox News host Sean Hannity on his radio show said that the accusers could be violating one of the Ten Commandments: “thou shalt not bear false witness.” On the same show, a guest, Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins, said that Corfman “disgust[ed]” her because she “spent 38 years thinking about this before [she] said anything” and was “making women poison to work for.” Additionally, radio host Rush Limbaugh called Corfman a “wacky,” “self-admitted mess of a woman,” and frequent Fox News guest David Wohl called Corfman “basically incorrigible” because she “was suffering from drug addiction, alcohol abuse.” As Post columnist Margaret Sullivan noted, these kinds of smears are exactly why so many women are hesitant to report abuse.

  • Trump tweet about UK crime and Muslims mirrors segment from conspiracy-mongering network OANN

    One America News Network has a history of shilling for Trump and pushing shameful Seth Rich conspiracy theories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    President Donald Trump tweeted an erroneous claim that was nearly identical to an on-screen graphic that has repeatedly aired on the racist, conspiracy-mongering One America News Network (OANN) that falsely linked crime in the United Kingdom to “radical Islamic terror.”

    In a segment airing at 6:25 a.m., OANN ran a chyron which read, “Report: U.K. Crime Rises 13% Annually Amid Spread Of Radical Islamic Terror.”

    Minutes later, at 6:31 a.m. Trump tweeted:

    As The Guardian reported, Trump “erroneously” linked the rise in crime to terror even though the report in question “barely mentions terrorism other than to refer on one occasion to the impact recent terrorist attacks in Britain had on the headline murder rate.” Additionally, as the Daily Mail noted, “British MPs tore into Mr Trump for talking 'nonsense' and said he is 'spreading fear and xenophobia' by wrongly blaming the rise on terrorism.”

    Given the timing of his tweet, and the fact that his morning tweets did not mirror Fox & Friends, as they often do, it is entirely possible that Trump got the segment from watching OANN. The network is available through DIRECTV, which Trump reportedly uses.

    Trump has previously praised OANN and the network’s White House correspondent, Trey Yingst, was one of the most called-on reporters during former White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s briefings.

    OANN has a history of shilling for Trump, even hyping the president’s lies about the crowd size at his inauguration. The network, additionally, hired Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a political commentator (he was reportedly later fired for appearing "too much" on OANN's competitors). OANN has a penchant for pushing racist commentary and debunked conspiracy theories -- including about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich -- and has repeatedly hosted Jack Posobiec, a far-right troll who heavily pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.

    UPDATE: In a tweet, OANN thanked Trump for watching:

     

  • Right-wing media falsely call crucial ACA subsidies "bailouts" to defend Trump's decision to halt them

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    President Donald Trump and right-wing media have repeatedly referred to cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments -- a key subsidy under the Affordable Care Act that helps working class people afford insurance -- as a “bailout” for the insurance industry to defend Trump’s decision to cease making the payments. Fact-checkers have refuted the characterization of these payments as “bailouts,” and experts note that failure to make these payments could wreck havoc on the insurance industry and would end up costing the federal government billions.

  • It’s time to pay attention to Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters 

    Myanmar government forces, under Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, are committing genocide against the country’s ethnic Rohingya minority group, the majority of whom are Muslim. The government of Myanmar claims these are “clearance operations” in retaliation for attacks by an insurgent terrorist military group that attacked police outposts, even though experts have found that the insurgents are few in number and poorly equipped.

    The United Nations has called the government of Myanmar’s actions “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” International investigators and reporters have gathered evidence and heard stories of entire villages being burned to the ground, women being gang-raped, and soldiers shooting at Rohingya as they attempt to flee violence. Over half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to escape state violence since August 25.

    Right-wing media outlets are portraying this expulsion of the Rohingya as a “refugee crisis,” accusing the Rohingya of posing “a serious security threat” and even trying to justify the government violence as a response to what they refer to as “Islamic terrorism.” But in trying to justify the government’s violent and horrific actions by claiming it’s just a response to terrorism, thI thinkey are ignoring decades of oppression inflicted by the Myanmar state.

    The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state; they are not a nationally recognized ethnic group and are not considered citizens of the majority-Buddhist Myanmar. As a result, the Rohingya are systematically barred from jobs, education, medical care, free worship, and open travel, in part due to reactionary ethnic nationalism laws put in place by the military regime that followed British colonialist rule. State laws restrict Rohingya families to two children, with those who break the law imprisoned and their children put on a blacklist. They’re not recognized as citizens, but rather seen as outsiders or intruders, even though many have lived in Myanmar their entire lives.

    Nobel Peace Prize winner and de facto civilian Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to denounce her government’s role in, and denied allegations of, ethnic cleansing, despite considerable evidence. She has been long been criticized for her anti-Muslim remarks and outright erasure of the plight of the Rohingya. Her fellow Nobel laureates are condemning her silence, and the Oxford City Council has withdrawn its “Freedom of Oxford” awards.

    The state-sponsored violence targeting the Rohingya has only gotten worse. It’s time to pay attention or the world will continue to miss the telltale signs of genocide.

    Resources for how to help the Rohingya (list via The New York Times):

    BRAC, a group founded in Bangladesh, was ranked the No. 1 nongovernmental organization in the world by NGO Advisor, which cited its adaptive approaches and strong community presence. Of the 350 staff members directly serving the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, many are locals who speak a dialect similar to that of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. BRAC has built thousands of latrines, hundreds of tube wells and more than 50 child-friendly spaces and emergency health clinics that see thousands of children and patients every day, according to Emily Coppel and Matt Kertman, spokespersons for the group.

    Action Against Hunger is responding to the Rohingya crisis with hundreds of full-time staff members on the ground in Bangladesh, delivering hot meals and water, according to Elizabeth Wright, a spokeswoman for the group. Health workers are treating malnourished children, while mental health counselors are providing support to refugees suffering from acute stress and trauma. Having been in Bangladesh since 2007, Action Against Hunger is partnering with many local organizations and international groups in distributing food and water.

    Unicef is prioritizing shelter, food and water in its efforts to protect children and women, according to Jean-Jacques Simon, Unicef’s communications chief in Bangladesh. In addition to distributing water daily, the group has plans to install water pumps and deep tube wells in the camps. Malnourished children are receiving therapeutic food and supplements. In a news release on Sept. 17, the group also announced plans to vaccinate 150,000 children against measles, rubella and polio.

    Save the Children has been working in Bangladesh since 1970. In addition to distributing essentials like tents, cooking kits and hygiene kits to the displaced Rohingya, Save the Children is paying special attention to helping children, particularly those who are not accompanied by family members. It says 45 staff members are currently dedicated to the Rohingya response. The number of staff and local partners could be increased to 780 by the end of the year to support long-term aid for these refugees, according to Evan Schuurman, a spokesman for the group.

    Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) has worked in Bangladesh since 1985. At least 300 staff members are in Cox’s Bazar, treating ailments including severe dehydration, diarrheal diseases, violence-related injuries and cases of sexual violence, according to the group.

    The International Rescue Committee is helping the Rohingya remaining in Rakhine, with 400 staff members and volunteers providing medical care and emergency relief. Sanna Johnson, the group’s regional director for Asia, says its operations are complicated by restrictions from Myanmar’s government, which has banned international nongovernmental organizations from some areas of the state.

    UNHCR, the refugee agency for the United Nations has been working with Rohingya migrants since 1978. Of the UNHCR staff members responding to the most recent crisis, about 150 are in Bangladesh and nearly 30 are in Myanmar, according to Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, an emergency response coordinator. In addition to distributing emergency aid and shelter materials, the group gives protection and support to unaccompanied children, the elderly and survivors of rape and trauma.

    World Food Program is a United Nations agency that has been distributing high-energy biscuits to migrants as they have arrived in Bangladesh. It will continue to address food scarcity through subsidies in rice and nutritional powder. As of the end of September, 26 staff members were working with NGO partners and support staff in Cox’s Bazar, according to a spokeswoman, Silke Buhr.